The Washington Capitals, and specifically Alex Ovechkin, seemed to thrive when coach Adam Oates switched up his line combinations Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres when the captain skated with Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer.
At Monday’s practice, it was back to the lines that played Friday night at the New Jersey Devils and started Sunday’s game. That meant Ovechkin back with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
Oates cited “balance” as his reasoning for going back to the previous combinations.
“I actually thought that they provided a lot of speed for [Ovechkin] and could maybe back the ‘D’ off,” Oates said. “Obviously, during the course of a game you can change it back and go through combinations.”
It’s likely that these lines will begin Tuesday night’s game at the Ottawa Senators. Asked if he saw anything negative about Ovechkin with Beagle and Crabb, Oates said simply, “No.”
“I guess I’m still learning. I like having north/south guys with him. Maybe sometimes with the other guys they might try and get too creative,” he said. “And at the time when I did it last night we needed creativity. We needed something. We needed a spark. We need a goal. As opposed to just maybe being more relentless as a team going north. And I think playing with Joey and Beags they’re going to go north more.”
Crabb still doesn’t consider himself a first-liner, but he likes the line.
“I thought we’ve played well together. We’ve gotten chances but just not buried and capitalized on those chances,” Crabb said. “[Sunday] we had a real good chance, I think we only played together in the first period, but the game before we had a couple of good chances, so I’ve been happy, we’ve had some hard work out there and it’s been good.”
Michal Neuvirth (4-0-0, 1.55 goals-against average, .945 save percentage) gets his fourth straight in goal.
Lines and pairings:
Alex Ovechkin - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb
Wojtek Wolski - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perreault / Marcus Johansson - Eric Fehr
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
John Erskine - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Tomas Kundratek
Roman Hamrlik - Tom Poti